Requiem for a Cheerleader... The Passing of Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith
Folks, Harry here… I don’t expect many of you to understand the sadness I have over the passing of Rainbeaux Smith. For most of you she has a name you’ve never heard, a face you’ve never seen. She was never a star in the film sense of things, more of a satellite of the B film world.
I first knew Rainbeaux’s face from Brian DePalma’s wonderful cult Rock Musical PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE… She was the vacant pleasure eyed groupie in the audition bed of SWAN. She was lovely, blonde and simply an angel. There was a quality about her that always made her stand out from the other girls on that bed.
Next I saw her in CHEECH & CHONG’S UP IN SMOKE and NICE DREAMS as the laughing crazed lady from that first film and as another teeny tiny part in the other. Just a pretty face in a sea of hilarity.
Then in 1998, Quentin Tarantino had that film festival of his at the Dobie Theater here in Austin. On August 5th – “POMPOMS GONE AWRY” night commenced. Everybody I knew at the screening was excited to experience what we all called “Cheerleader Night”. A night of pure unadulterated Cheerleading Exploitation. I also knew nobody in the theater that had seen SWINGING CHEERLEADERS or REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS. We simply did not know what we were in for. He was wearing a green and white t-shirt with a globe-headed man wearing a business suit… a rather fun and culty looking outfit ending in a pair of blue Nikes. I remember what he said as though it were yesterday (albeit with the aide of Quint’s transcriptions of that night) how he introduced that audience of 200 or so to the glory that was Rainbeaux Smith:
“What Pam Grier was to Blaxploitation movies, what Bruce Lee was to Kung Fu movies, what Burt Reynolds was to Good Ol' Boy movies, Rainbeaux Smith was to Cheerleader movies. She is a very unique presence in movies. She truly has, without trying whatsoever, a Marilyn Monroe quality. She doesn't look like Marilyn Monroe at all, she just has that kind of vacantness. She's not so much acting as she is existing. Imagine Marilyn Monroe as kind of a '70s hippie junky then you kind of have Rainbeaux Smith.”
Since that glorious night of transcendent joy and pure happiness, I have explored and sought out the other work of Rainbeaux Smith… I own her performance in the bizarre film, LASERBLAST – yeah the one with those stop-motion David Allen animated shell-less turtles! I have it in 16mm, the only celluloid proof I have of her easy sensuality.
Then there’s all those softcore late seventies films that she ruled. SINDERELLA, GAME SHOW MODELS, SLUMBER PARTY ’57, THE POM POM GIRLS and of course VIDEO VIXENS where she played Twinkle Twat! The greatest sex name in film history.
In 1974 though she was quite wonderful in Jonathan Demme’s CAGED HEAT, technically… for me, his best film. CAGED HEAT is a wonderful, amazing Women in Prison film, and Rainbeaux Smith shines as a prisoner serving life for killing a man that was raping her friend. Problem was, the asshole was a Senator’s son and they hit her with 1st Degree Murder. She plays the role as a hopeless no-way out lady that is doomed to a long haul. She’s not looking for trouble, but the whole film her helpless nature really truly makes one feel protective of her. She’s great. Especially when she discovers what the doctor does at the clinic. She had a little lost girl quality that felt honest and real. Her real life was filled with tragedy and heart ache. She fell hard into drugs, spent two sessions in prison and was rumored to pop up in Australian Porn. Truly a case of another talent eaten up by the machine that attracts so many beautiful women, but really doesn’t honestly care about many of them.
Rainbeaux had the sort face that made you want good things for her. She was never up for any awards for performance. She never made a terribly big splash in film. However, if she caught your eye, held your gaze for even a minute, she stayed with ya. Tonight I watched a double feature of REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS and CAGED HEAT. There’s a handful of people I know in this world that I can talk to about Rainbeaux, I’m sure tomorrow… I’ll have a handful of those conversations.